Thursday, January 24, 2008

Alex Ferguson talks some sense, finally

In his predicament with Liverpool FC’s current owners, Rafa Benitez has gained sympathy and support from the most unlikely of source – Alex Ferguson.

The Manchester United boss was reported to have criticized Liverpool's American owners for the way they have undermined Benitez.

Ferguson was quoted by the BBC to have said, “You should let a manager get on with his job.

"At big clubs, it's absolutely paramount that the board show their class.

"Arsene Wenger has had great support at Arsenal and I've had great support, too, ever since I came here. So there's a certain type of unity there," said Ferguson.

I never thought I would ever say this but, ermm… Ferguson, thank you.

We owe you one.

But only on this one, though. As for the rest…all is not forgiven, nor forgotten.

What, kiss and make up? YEUCHH, don't even THINK about it!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Global warming: the signs are clear to see

Big waves pounding Tuvalu during King Tide (BBC pic)

Have you ever seen a Foreign Minister of a nation pleading to foreigners to save his nation? Well, that’s what I saw on the BBC News on television this morning.

The Foreign Minister concerned was from the island nation of Tuvalu. He was lamenting the fact that his nation could well and truly be submerged under the Pacific Ocean in, give or take, 15 year’s time. That’s right. Submerged, as in wiped off from the surface of the earth!

Tuvalu is group of nine tiny islands and atolls in the South Pacific, midway between Australia and Hawaii. Its highest elevation is just five meters (about 16 ft) above sea level. So this makes the nation very vulnerable to sea level rise.

However, this is compounded by the fact that Tuvalu is also affected by what is known as a King Tide. This refers to the highest tides of the year in Tuvalu, which can raise the sea level higher than a normal high tide. When this happens, waves would inundate the islands leaving behind a trail of destruction.

That would be the normal, annual, scenario. But just imagine what the King Tide could do to poor Tuvalu if the sea level rises as a result of global warming.

This year’s King Tide has already shown what the effects of global warming are having onto this small island nation. The tides are much higher than in previous years and a much greater part of the islands are now affected by flooding. Thus the plea by Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister. So one can fully understand when the leaders of this tiny nation start worrying for their future existence.

The question is: what is the international community going to do in the light of this plea? Indeed, what about the fight to control global climate change?

The biggest polluters – who are also some of the biggest economies in the world – should chip in to save a drowning community. Even if they have not signed (and in the case of USA, have no intention of ratifying) the international protocol for reducing Greenhouse gases, at least they should have some sense of moral responsibility.

Or, better still, just go ahead and sign the Kyoto Protocol. Rising temperatures, unpredictable weather patterns, droughts, you name it, the signs of global warming are everywhere for us to see. So, just do it!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Of Port Dickson and public beaches

Just got back from Port Dickson for a workshop-cum-brainstorming session.

Everybody knows PD. And I’m sure everyone in the Kelang Valley must have been there for a vacation or, at the very least, for a day outing and a picnic with the family. After all, it is just about 70km away from KL.

Me, of course I had heard a lot about PD before. However, my first experience in PD is fairly recent. For that, I had to wait until I was transferred to work in KL from Alor Setar in 1997.

I must say it was just a so, so, experience, though. The quality of its beaches pale in comparison with those in Terengganu, for example. Why, they don’t even measure up against Teluk Batik in Perak, or Batu Ferringhi in Penang if you ask me.

But what really bothers me is that – despite boasting beaches totaling 18km in length – PD does not really have that many beaches for the general public. By this, I mean beaches where your typical Pakcik and Makcik from the kampong can have free and direct access – with their children in tow – to lay open their tikar mengkuang for a decent family picnic.

Sure, there is the good old Teluk Kemang, complete with public amenities and ample parking space. There are also a few smaller ones, but these are less provided for in terms of supporting amenities.

So, when people go to PD for recreation nowadays, what they really mean is that they are going to check into one of the hotels. For then, and only then, would you have access to the beaches fronting your hotel.

Now, isn’t that ironic?

Beaches are state land. The belong to the state, and by that virtue, to the people, the general public. The hotels DO NOT have private entitlement over the beaches.

The late 1990s saw PD going through a boom of hotels and resorts. In fact, many Singaporeans invested in holiday homes in and around PD back then. That period saw more and more beaches being ‘taken away’ from the public as hotels are built right on the very edge of beaches, and hotel operators prevented the public from using the beaches fronting their premises.

The public have rights to these beaches for recreational purposes!

The State government must set out (and enforce) clear policies as regards the use of state land. But ultimately, the local planning authority should plan for the creation of physical access to beaches and support these with relevant amenities.

May be it's a bit too late for PD. But a deliberate and concerted effort could spring up with a few pleasant surprises. Surely, we don’t want our own public to be deprived of their basic rights, and restricted to a shabby few beaches, which, even then, will most likely be over-crowded, and in unkempt condition.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

School holiday projet No. 3:
Kacang buncis from our backyard garden

We are now into the second week of 2008. The new schooling year is well under way. And our household is now back to “normal situation”. Normal, in the sense that we are now back to three; the Mem Besar, Nadiah and myself.

Syafiq and Anas had been safely deposited at their boarding school last week. And our eldest, Sakinah, reported for her second semester at the Polytechnic yesterday.

As I write this, we have just finished dinner. This is usually the “peak hour” in our house as the kitchen area and living room turns into a hive of activity. Sakinah would be clearing the dinner table. Syafiq might be wiping the dinner table clean, and Anas would be asked to take the rubbish out.

Nadiah, as usual, would be busy with the remote control incessantly trying to search for Tom Tom Bak or something similar for her prime time viewing. The Mem Besar, ever so hard working, would plonk a bundle of washed clothes in front of the television for her to expertly fold, one by one, with her eyes transfixed on the screen!

As for me, I would be very busy lying on the sofa analysing the newspapers for news of grave importance to world peace and security, economic growth, national politics and (just a bit) on sports.

Things could get pretty noisy what with Syafiq trying to wrestle the remote control off Nadiah, or Anas (always the mischievous bully) tormenting Nadiah just for the fun of it.

But something is amiss tonight. It’s so quite.

Before the holidays started, I had worried about how to fill my children’s long school break with something useful (wrote about it here). When they duly returned home, things – as expected – went haywire. More dirty clothes to wash everyday, extra food to stock up and prepare. And I lost count of how many times the Mem Besar and I had to scream our heads off for them to tidy their rooms, to wake up and get out of bed, and so on.

All in all, it’s certainly not what the doctor would prescribe for someone diagnosed with hypertension.

But now that they have all left for schooling, I can’t help thinking about them – noisy antics, playful jibes and untidy bedrooms aside

I think I’m missing my kids!

"Absence make the heart grow fonder", the saying goes. How true.

To Sakinah, Syafiq and Anas I hope you guys had a fruitful school holiday. Study hard, and work smart. And all the best wishes from Abah and Ummi in your studies this year.

We love you all very much.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Happy Birthday Baby Nadiah

Last Friday, January the 4th, was the birthday of the baby of the family, Siti Nadiah. She is now 10.

Since big brothers Syafiq and Anas were due to go back to boarding school before that date, we celebrated the birthday a few days earlier.


And many thanks also to Big Sis Sakinah, and brothers Syafiq and Anas for the presents. Nice of you guys to remember.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Perak's lack of identity: We need a Yeob Goneng

I am sure by now many of you would have heard, or read, about the book “Growing Up In Terengganu” (GUiT). It is written by Wan A. Hulaimi aka Awang Goneng.

I have not read the book yet. However, I have read and heard a lot about it from my Terengganu friends.

GUiT is a collection of tales on growing up in a Malaysian village in Terenganu and the sense of pride at being part of it. It is said to capture the very essence of life in Terengganu back in the 1960s and 70s.

My Terengganu friends – as expected – wax lyrical about the book. I can just see the glow in their eyes as they enthusiastically talk about it. Reading GUiT has undoubtedly managed to evoke a sense of nostalgia amongst them.

What’s more interesting is that GUiT has also rejuvenated and reinforced their sense of identity as Terengganu people. What with the book being sprinkled with Terengganu slang (or Terengganuspeak as Awang Goneng puts it), GUiT is a godsend for enhancing a sense of identity among the rakyat of the state.

Not surprisingly, the book is said to be something of a phenomenon, not least in Terengganu itself, where Awang Goneng was welcomed back for a book signing function at a bookshop.

I listened with a tinge of jealousy as my friend AO rattled on (bragged, actually) about his meeting with Awang Goneng at the bookshop. But it suddenly dawned on me: where is the Perak version of Awang Goneng? Or, if you don’t mind the pun, our very own “Yeob Goneng”.

Maybe it’s just me, but I for one think that there is a dearth of sense of identity and pride amongst us Perakian.

When we migrate to KL, for example, our character and identity will be ‘compromised’. And we’d easily drop the loghat Perak, so much so that we’d all be lost without a trace amongst the KL denizens. Unlike the Kelantanese, we do not much look out for, nor look after, each other either.

But then, even back home we do not have much to show to be proud of and bring us close together, is there? So, what’s new?

We don’t have a bustling city like George Town in the north and KL in down south. We don’t have mega projects that inject billions into the local economy. Nor do we have any major resorts, Taman Negara, international airshows or the monsoon cup to draw in the crowds.

*Yawn*…it’s all rather characterless and boring isn’t it? And to think that up until the 1970s Perak was still such a vibrant and bustling state.

That’s right, folks. Perak, at one time, was the world’s number one producer of tin ore in the whole wide world! In fact, the first people to own private cars in the country is said to be the super rich tin-miners from Perak. Yup! So, now you know why Perak cars are registered with the letter “A”.

As evidence of Perak being THE place to be back then, one could easily draw on the historical facts which reflect the level of development of the state in comparison to others in Malaya.

For example, the birth of the current-day Department of Survey and Mapping Malaysia (JUPEM) can be traced to Taiping where the first Trigonometrical Survey Section was created under the Perak Public Works Department.

The original batch of rubber seedlings brought into Malaya from London's Kew Gardens found its way to Kuala Kangsar, where till this day, the last surviving original rubber tree can still be seen at the district office.

The historical town of Taiping is famous for many firsts in the nation. This includes the first railway line (Taiping to Port Weld), museum, and hill resort (Bukit Larut).

The Taiping prison was the first purpose-built prison in Malaya. And of course, the Taiping Zoo, a fine zoo which runs till this day, was the first zoo in Malaya.

But when the tin mines started closing one by one, so went the great days. And, unfortunately, as other states re-fashion and rebrand themselves, Perak was stuck in a rut.

So, let’s bring back the glory days, shall we?

But, where art thou Yeob Goneng?

Interestingly, the answer to this question might be found on the cover of Awang Goneng’s book itself.

For on the cover of GUiT is a tag line by Dr. Annabel from the British Library which goes: “Awang Goneng does with words what Lat did with pictures.”

“Lat” here, of course, refers to our cartoonist Dato’ Lat who hails from Perak. Lat is now famous world wide for bringing to countless number of readers the joy of growing up and living in Malaysia.

In the Foreword to the book “Lat 30 Years Later”, Adibah Amin wrote of Lat: “ People from other lands have found in Lat a merry guide to Malaysian ways”. That being the case, in my reckoning, we will also find in Lat a merry guide to the Perak ways.

For one, Lat is adept at bringing to life the traditional and quirky ways of his home state. Browse through his record of the Perak Wedding, and you will know what I mean.

Lat also simply treasures the memory and nostalgia of his childhood days and living environment.

He has a deep attachment to his kampong roots. But his endearment towards live in the “big town” which opened him up to new experiences in life was equally strong. Two of his greatest works “The Kampong Boy” and “The Town Boy” are pure testimonies to this.

But what really convinces me that Lat is the Yeob Goneng is the fact that Lat can also write. His crime reporter days at the NST notwithstanding, one can sample his whimsical style of writing in his book-length cartoons.

Now, just imagine. Lat’s writing flair combined with his exquisite drawings of a rollicking world which is uniquely Perak in flavour. Boy, what a potent combination.

And it may not just be restricted to a full-length book or cartoons. Lat, with his creative imagination, can run riot and develop our very own theme park, theme resort and what have you.

Pesta durian and pesta tanglong ala Kota Lama Kanan will be featured strongly in the theme park. As for food, the park will be filled with the strong smell of gulai tempoyak and rendang tok all day long.

Now, how does that sound?

It’s a dream, yes. But I hope this dream could materialize.

How? I do not know yet.

Perhaps the Perak State government should sit up and take notice of the dire need to build up our character as a people. The need to create our sense of pride and identity as being Rakyat Perak.

For we should not leave Perak, for our future generations, devoid of history, culture, tradition as well as a strong sense of identity and character.